(SURGEON SIMULATOR 2 is out now on the Epic Game Store. Distributor provided review copy.)
The first SURGEON SIMULATOR was one of the big sleeper hits of its year, winning over audiences with its revamped OPERATION! style gameplay and extremely black humor. It wasn’t exactly an all time great, nor something that held interest for dozens of hours on end, but it was unerringly funny and a blast to play. But I can’t exactly say that I remember anyone, least of all myself, thinking that this was something that required a sequel. Let alone after seven years since the original came out.
But here it is, and here we are. No use crying over spilled intestines. Is SURGEON SIMULATOR 2 worth the wait? Well, yes and no. If you’re the type of player waiting for another single player experience that’ll tide you over for a couple of hours, this sadly won’t be it. But bring along some friends and Bossa Studios’ comedy suddenly turns into a riotous affair that you’ll want to return to over and over again.
SURGEON SIMULATOR 2 takes this basic premise and does what every sequel does: it amplifies everything to the point that diminishing returns set in. Now there’s a full campaign mode, including a disembodied voice in the style of GladOS, and a multiplayer mode for up to four people. The surgeries are more involved, as are the ways that they can go wrong, but the controls feel even more fiddly than before, which make the convoluted puzzles feel more like work than the kind of emergent chaos present in the first game.
The basics are the same as with the first SURGEON SIMULATOR. Players can control only one hand on their body, and all of that is tied to mouse movements and the occasional single button on the keyboard. Your hand moves horizontally and vertically to grab things, and your arm can be extended and pulled back to some remarkably inhuman lengths. Everything has physics built into it, so enough pressure or force will pull things off their sockets or break them entirely. Your mission is to complete a variety of increasingly complex surgeries with as little (or as lot) of damage as possible. As long as the patient survives nobody will ask questions about the leftover parts.
Granted, the campaign is more like an elaborate tutorial for the multiplayer mode, which is the main emphasis of the game. Sure you can tackle all the missions solo, but even the game stops you right before you set off to your first surgery to remind you that this isn’t really the point. But since it’s playable by yourself, it must be tried at least once.
And that’s about as much as you’ll probably want to play it alone, to be honest. Like most games relying on built-in clumsiness, SURGEON SIMULATOR 2 is a testament to how some things that will be hilarious as a group are just annoying alone. Fiddling with a body that’s bleeding out while your one hand is all thumbs gets old quick, but add two other doctors in the mix who fumble about with extra bags of blood and a bone saw, and suddenly it feels like a Marx Brothers routine.
It’s here that the game truly comes alive. As an online party game SURGEON SIMULATOR 2 is like taking part in an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon with added physics. Having a group of friends around to immediately react to the successes and failures (of which there are plenty) makes the nonsense feel not just worthwhile, but earned. Emergent moments like the sudden silence when someone accidentally pulls the head off a patient are golden, and the feeling when everyone finds a flow to work together in putting a body back together again in record time is incredibly rewarding.
Add to that a surprisingly inventive and fun level designer and SURGEON SIMULATOR 2 offers way more content than you’d expect from its mid-tier pricing. While the campaign won’t last you more than around five to six hours, the multiplayer components and player generated content could potentially multiply that exponentially. Granted, it’s a shame that the experience as a single player game is quite simply just not worth the effort. But that’s not an isolated issue for these types of games. Luckily the matchmaking seemed to be reasonably easy and I had no issues finding a match with others within a few minutes.
Alongside the obvious comparisons to board games like OPERATION!, SURGEON SIMULATOR 2 feels like a natural addition to our current pandemic world, where friends will have to see each other online instead of in person. The character creation tool lets players make suitably ridiculous looking avatars for themselves, and the online experience I found to be stable throughout.
It’s like inviting people over for a party, one that involves buckets of blood and limbs flying through the air. What could be better than that?